MAZAMA - The North Cascades Highway is closed until spring.
Heavy snow and several slides, coupled with a weather forecast calling for more snow through Thanksgiving weekend, prompted the state Department of Transportation to close state Highway 20 on Nov. 20.
A temporary closure began Monday, Nov. 19, when snow began falling at the rate of more than two inches per hour.
By Tuesday morning, 19-20 inches of heavy, wet snow had fallen.
"That brings the total on the shoulders of the highway to 38 to 42 inches, and it only takes two to three feet of snow to fill up the avalanche chutes," Twisp Maintenance Supervisor Don Becker said.
Slides below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes, just east of Washington Pass, left snow on the highway. The largest slide left snow 14 feet deep and 50 feet wide.
Below the passes, heavy rain caused mud, rocks and trees to spill across the road.
"It's just not safe for our crews or the public to be up on the highway," Becker said.
The 37-mile winter closure zone begins seven miles east of Diablo Dam at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass and ends nine miles west of Mazama at milepost 171 below Washington Pass.